30 October 2012

BIG DAY...Peru (10 Oct)

Rich and I had one more day to enjoy the forests of CICRA, and we made the most of it. By lunchtime it was clear the day total was heading to enormous proportions, considering we were on foot, and we upped the pace and tried to pack in as much as we could before dark. It was quite the day - both birds and mammals starred - and I ended up going to sleep exhausted but thrilled at having been given a chance to bird this magnificent forest. The next day I left with a heavy heart, hoping I would see CICRA again someday. 

Tinamous featured heavily in this bumper list, with 7 species recorded, displaying the undisturbed nature of the forest. In one particular moment I chased after a close calling Brazilian Tinamou, which eluded me, and I walked away from it only to flush another, unidentified tinamou just minutes later, and while was cursing tinamous under my breath I glanced around to see a White-throated Tinamou quietly walking by (one of four tinamou lifers that I got on this Peru trip)! Three tinamous of three species within meters of each other was a little unbelievable. Manakins were also represented on the day well with 5 species recorded (Fiery-capped, Round-tailed, Band-tailed, Dwarf-tyrant, and Wing-barred Piprites), including some feisty dueling male Band-taileds. A visit to a cocha (lake) along one of the trails boosted our list considerably, with Hoatzins loafing clumsily around the edges, a pair of Band-tailed Antbirds encountered in the scrubby verge, and a very confiding American Pygmy-Kingfisher showing off in the area. A trail close to the cocha brought me first Pavonine Quetzal for some years, a staggeringly beautiful bird that glowed red and green from the canopy as it looked down on us. Mammals also featured heavily during the morning, when a spine-tingling gnashing of many teeth, led us to a massive herd of White-lipped Peccaries (50-100-hard to tell as they were running here, there, and everywhere). Their presence was not just confirmed by their teeth-gnashing, which seemed straight out of B-movie, but also coupled with a terrible stench which they carry with them. Eventually, after running headlong towards the herd I caught sight of several of these far from pretty beasts, and I was overjoyed; I had wanted to have the peccary experience for some time, and it was every bit as ghastly and memorable as it was hyped to be! We also ran into a troop of hyper Saddleback Tamarins, one of which even slowed down enough to have his photo taken. 

However, the finale to our BIG DAY will be what will best be remembered. We had chosen to walk a trail that bordered a cocha and a section of the Los Amigos River in our final hope of finding a White-throated Jacamar, a scarce species known from CICRA, which had frustrated us so much as we were not able to find it that we had come to call it the "****ing Jacamar!" However, as we tried to reach the section of trail which looked good, habitat-wise, for the species we walked into a wall of impenetrable secondary scrub. We beat against it, tried to get around it, but eventually had to admit defeat; the jacamar race was over with the jacamar the clear victor. So we carried on along our original trail and amazingly ran into a small window, where there was a viewpoint down onto the area we could not reach. We were quite some distance up from there though, and so, rather hopefully, I played the call of the jacamar, which remarkably called excitedly back! We were stunned; then moments later a distant bird was located sitting on an open cecropia branch, before Rich struck gold when he noticed a pair of them had moved in silently into the tree just below us, their heads an image of nervous activity glancing this way and that as they presumably searched for their unwanted intruder (i.e. my I-Pod). This was just the finale we needed. We walked on, with dusk fast approaching, and tried to return to the station along a trail we had never visited before and walked straight into half a dozen Pale-winged Trumpeters walking in the forest on their way to roost. They were a bit surprised ton find us right on top of them, causing them to scatter, and one to even seek refuge in the trees overhead. These odd Amazonian birds are part of a family which is most closely related to cranes, a family of birds, and a type of birds that one would not immediately associate with lowland jungles, but that is exactly where all the three trumpeter species are found. We returned to lodge elated after a great climax to our time in CICRA, and were greeted by the usual Pauraques on getting back to the station, happy in the knowledge that we must have racked up a heady last day list for the property. Only after Rich Hoyer got home and combed through the records did he realize that we had got 199 species that day, agonizingly close to breaking 200, and with the awful realization we had not recorded some shoe-ins around the station like Violaceous Jay and Boat-billed Flycatcher. Clearly, with a boat, and a strategy, this site has massive potential for a near recording-breaking big day...now there's a thought!

News from my last day in Peru to come...

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